International (Christian) Woman’s Day

Fellow Women,

Let us be women of faith, shining an example for others to follow.

Let us be brave, daring to fight as equal partners alongside our brothers in faith. 

Let us be strong, never being afraid to step out, speak out, and defy the status quo. 

Let us never lower our standards for ourselves or our dreams, but dare to be all that God has called us to be – living as the ‘ezer‘ that God has created us to be.

Let us never settle, but choose to wait for a man after God’s own heart, who will love and respect us in equal measures.

Let us be a voice in our generation, daring to live original in a world that expects a carbon copy

Let us speak up for woman around the world who lack the opportunities that we have been blessed with, in freedom and in education.

Let us be compassionate, always remembering that God values our heart more than our appearance or accomplishments.

Let us be leaders, and be the hands and feet of Jesus to those whom God has placed in our paths.

Finally, let us be warriors – for all that is good, and right, and noble, and just, and pure.

And let us never forget that we are loved, valued, and cherished by a God who has created us, on purpose, for a purpose

Let us never forget our identity in Him! 

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Brave Faith

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20. 

Over this past weekend, there was a huge Christian revival that took place in Orlando, Florida called The Send. The purpose of this revival was to revitalize a generation to go out and share Jesus with their high schools, colleges, and communities. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend in person, as I got sick that same weekend, but I was able to watch it through a livestream, and it was pretty incredible. Thousands upon thousands of believers – all ready to impact the world for Christ. 

Let’s be honest, it can be all too easy to stay in our foxholes as Christians, never venturing out to do the one thing that we have been called to do as Christians. It can be so easy to play it safe, and miss opportunities that God might be giving us to share His love with those around us. For many of us, it can be hard to even know where to begin.

How can we share Christ with a world that is too often hostile towards our faith?

In many ways, this will look different for everyone. God has placed us all in a unique set of circumstances with a unique call to share the Gospel. Some of you reading this may be being called to full time ministry – as pastors or missionaries in a third world country. Others reading this may feel convicted to be more open about faith at their high schools. Still others may read this and think of a co-worker, or a friend, who does not know Jesus. We may not all feel called to share our faith in the same way, but there is one thing that I know and believe with absolute certainty. We are all called to share our faith in some way with those God has placed into our path. 

This could be as simple as telling someone that you’re praying for them. Or, inviting them to church for a special event. Sometimes God will call us to share our faith in a way that is outside of the ordinary but often, it will just be through acts of everyday faithfulness and kindness. If we continue to keep our eyes on Jesus, and follow Him wherever He might lead us to go, I fully believe that He will show us exactly what we are called to in this season and this chapter of our life. 

Therefore, I want to challenge you to boldness. I want to challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone and be the light that God is calling you to be. Matthew 5:13-16 says,

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

God is calling you to make a difference right where you are.

God is calling you to share His extravagant love with the world.

God is calling you to be the change!

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“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13 

How do you feel that God is calling you to share Him with your world this week? Feel free to comment about it in the comments below – I’d love to hear how God is working in your lives!😃✝️❤️

Creativity

“In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.” – Genesis 1:1 (NIV). 

I am a firm believer that we are all artists. Wherever you are and whatever your interests, you are an artist. We were born to create because we serve a God who is the ultimate Creator of everything that we see and touch. We serve a God who is the ultimate Artist. Who said ‘let there be light’ and there was (Genesis 1:1, NIV). Who breathed this whole, vast, and quickly moving earth that we see today into existence.

Creativity is from God, and God’s stamp on each one of us. 

Theologian and teacher Francis Shaeffer puts it this way: “The Christian in the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars.” He says in another place, “Christian art is the expression of the whole life of the whole person as a Christian. What a Christian portrays in his art is the totality of life… ” As Christians we are called to create. We are called to reflect God’s glory and be image bearers of our Creator in all that we do. This includes creating something beautiful – both in our art, and in our life. 

To be clear, I am not speaking only of the kinds of ‘art’ that we typically think of when we hear that word—creating through mediums such as drawing or painting. I have a friend who is an incredible artist—and who actually teaches it as a subject at a local high school. I greatly admire her gift and think it’s awesome how she uses it. However, I for one, cannot draw to save my life.

This does not make me less of an artist—just an artist of a different kind. My primary way of creating is through writing. Through splashing words on a page and painting with them. Even still, I have friends who create through other mediums. Mediums such as singing, dancing, photography, or playing an instrument. These are all forms of art that we can use to glorify God and create something beautiful with the gifts that our Lord has given us. 

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking to yourself ‘This still doesn’t relate to me. I am not by nature, a creative type’. I am here to tell you otherwise. We each create something in our day to day lives, in the smallest, most simple kind of ways. I read a quote by Seth Godin a couple of years ago that perfectly illustrates this point.

He says, “Art is too important a term to be used just for painters. And sculptors. And playwrights. And actors. And architects of a certain type. No, I think we need to broaden it to graphic designers and salespeople and bosses. To lay preachers, to gifted politicians and occasionally, to the guy who sweeps the floor. Art is a human act, something that’s done with the right sort of intent. Art is when we do work that matters, in a creative way, in a way that touches them and changes them for the better. – Seth Godin, Graceful

We can all create art because creating art is simply moving and existing as the ‘artists’ we were created to be. In Ephesians 2:10, Paul writes, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” If you look at the word ‘handiwork’ in its original language, and compare it to its Latin equivalent ‘Poema’, it literally translates ‘poem’. We are God’s ‘poem’ created to do the good works He has already planned for us in advance. We are art created to make art.

All while reflecting the glorious and spectacular nature of the God that we serve! 

This week, let us take some time to reflect on the creative nature of our God – and how we were created to create! How we can reflect God’s love, grace, and mercy, in both our lives and our art. Let us pray continuously over our creativity, and let God work in and through it! Let us never stop living life as poems – always remembering that we are a masterpiece created by our God!  

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How about you? What are some of the ways that you like to create? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below!😃

Guest Post – What Happens When You Give God The Pen

Hey everyone – in honor of today being Valentines Day I have asked my good friend Julia Carvalho (a name you might recognize from a previous post) to write a guest post for my blog. Her story is truly amazing and a testimony to God’s goodness and faithfulness! She has a love story that only God could’ve written and the first time I heard it, I was beyond inspired – and I believe that this story will inspire you the same way it inspired me!

So, without further ado, here is her incredible post and story!

* * * * *

Once upon a time, there was this girl. When she was thirteen-years-old, she read this cheesy romance novel and the main character mentioned that she had letters for her future husband. As a thirteen-year-old, nothing sounded more romantic than writing letters to a man she didn’t even know existed. However, even though she didn’t know who he was, she knew that God had already set him apart for her.

So, her first entry in her designated “Dear Future Husband…” notebook was not a love-letter, but instead, a prayer. A prayer that God would bring them together in His perfect timing, a prayer for strength for both of them to stay pure and follow His ways, and of course, at thirteen, a prayer that he was the most handsome man on the planet.

As the years went by she continued to write prayers and letters in this little notebook. She would write about her day, what was going on in her life, her struggles, her victories, really wishing she could look into his eyes and speak to him instead of gliding her pen through her pages. Fast-forward to holiday season 2017…or maybe a little before then. She was eighteen- years-old now, and it had been three months since her family had moved from the one city she had ever known, and she was still heart-broken.

Finally, by November, Jesus worked within in her in ways that only He could move, and she realized that she was never alone, that through it all, Jesus was right beside her, holding on to her and guiding her. So, despite craving a romantic relationship so badly, because all her friends were starting to date, she decided that she was content with just Jesus. If that was all she had in her whole life, she would be content.

The same book she read when she was thirteen came out with a continuing series of the
main character’s life following her through her college years. In the second book of the college series, the main character tells God that she no longer wants to hold the key to her heart. She no longer wanted to decide which guy could come in, because they ended up just leaving a mess in there. So, the character gave God the key to her heart and decided to let Him decide when the time was right.

The girl from our story thought that was beautiful, and it was the same sentiment she was feeling in the weeks before, so she prayed the same prayer. For the first time in her life, she truly felt satisfied. And honestly, she thought that since she had prayed that prayer, God’s perfect timing would be lightyears away and she wouldn’t have to worry about boys for a very long time, but, my friends, was she so very wrong.

Not even two weeks later her parents tell her that one of her dad’s lifelong friends from Brasilia (the capital of Brazil) was going to be in Orlando during Christmas time and they would be spending Christmas together. She was so mad. Finally, Christmas Eve arrives and the families are introduced.

Long story short, girl meets boy, girl hates boy and thinks he is a stuck-up brat (boy also dislikes girl). Next day, boy is super sweet and genuine and girl’s heart melts, girl says boy looks like a homeless man who found his clothes in the dumpster (hey, I guess no one told him you shouldn’t wear a super hole-y shirt on Christmas), girl is embarrassed she just called the cutest boy ever a hobo, boy laughs and thinks girl is so incredibly cute and loves her honesty, boy and girl try to get families to hang-out as much as possible during the holidays, boy falls in love with girl, girl falls in love with boy, boy flies 2,000 miles back home to California… *record scratches* wait, what?

“Jesus, now what? That’s all I have to say, now what?”

So, in case you haven’t caught on yet, the girl in the story is me, and we are at the most heart-breaking part of my story. I had finally met a boy who had the same passions as I did, who loved Jesus as much as I did, and who actually liked me back, but now he was flying across the country to go back to school. He would probably forget all about me as soon as he landed. He would definitely find a girl who was prettier than me and funnier than me. Why would he even want to be with me when we lived 2,468 miles apart (yes, I actually looked it up).

I definitely knew I wanted to date him, but I was so fearful that I was just falling into feelings and not into God’s will for my life. I was scared because I had never felt this way about a boy before. I had never been in a relationship before him, so everything was new. It was beautiful, and exciting, and terrifying.

Now, mind you, before he went back to California (and in the span of ten-days from meeting him to him leaving) God answered so many prayers about this boy. Like, so many. (To be honest, if I were to list all the prayers that God answered in those ten-days, we would be here until Valentine’s Day 2020. So, I’ll list the ones that were the most impactful, but if you want to know them all, just ask Courtney for my DM and we can talk.)

I was not afraid to ask God for big things. Things that couldn’t happen unless God was involved. For example, right after he left my house on Christmas, I realized we hadn’t shared any of our contact information with each other. So, I told God that if this boy found a way to contact me within 24 hours, that I would let him continue pursuing me. (keyword: him pursuing me, not the other way around.)

Eleven hours later, he found me on Instagram and sent me a DM. But then I was like, “Okay, God, but come on, it’s social media. Anyone could have found me there. So, if this boy asks to pray with me, then I’ll let him keep pursuing me.” Because what twenty-three-year old boy asks a girl he likes to pray with her?

Three days later, he asks if I would be okay with us taking turns praying every time we talked (we sent a lot of audio messages praying to each other). “Okay, God, I see You. BUT I’m not sold yet, so, if he asks to read the Bible with me, I’ll let him keep pursuing me.” 24 hours later, he asks me if I wanted to start a devotional with him on YouVersion. And my prayers went on for weeks, each time I was bolder and I was more specific in my requests. God never ceased to amaze me. He answered every single one of my crazy prayers within 24-72 hours. It was mind-blowing to me.

Little did I know, that by answering those requests, God was allowing me to be pursued by a man that I deserved.

One month and half of texting constantly, facetiming for 4-6 hours at a time, and tagging each other in memes on Facebook, he flew back to Orlando to ask my dad if he could date me. (Girls, take notes. Men like this actually exist in the world. Wait for them.) Tomorrow, February 15, Davi and I will have been dating for one year. I can honestly tell you that there were moments in my life before him that I wanted to date any boy that looked at me just because I wanted to be in a relationship. And I can honestly tell you that I am so glad that I gave God the key to my heart in those moments instead of letting my flesh takeover.

Women, I beg of you, wait for the one who God has set apart for you. Wait for the man who will take you to Magic Kingdom on your first date because you love Disney, even though he couldn’t care less for the Mouse. Wait for the man who will fly out and surprise you to help your family move. Wait for the man who will hold you while you cry, but who will look you in the eye and tell you the truth even when you don’t want to hear it, just because he knows it will make you a better person. Wait for the man who sees your beauty in Christ, and who wants to treat you with honor and respect. Wait for that man, because he is out there and so worth it.

Men, I beg of you, wait for the one who God has set apart for you. Wait for the woman who will go to a double-header soccer game to watch your favorite team with you, even though she doesn’t really understand the game. Wait for the woman who tells you what you are worth, because you deserve to be treated like a king. Wait for the woman who buys plane tickets to fly out to your sister’s wedding in Brazil. Wait for the woman who sees and respects you as leader in Christ, and who wants to trust and follow your lead. Wait for that woman, because she is out there and so worth it.

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Role Models

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV).

You are a role model. Whether you think so or not, there are people in your life who are watching you—and looking to your example for guidance on what to do—or, not to do. Whether it is a younger kid in your neighborhood, a younger sibling, or a cousin, you are already a role model in someone’s life, even if you are still relatively young yourself.

When I started this blog almost five years ago, I based my title largely after this theme, and the verse listed above. I was sixteen at this point, and have already had a number of role models who have influenced me in my own life—ranging from youth leaders, to celebrities (such as Bethany Hamilton and Francesca Battistelli), to older girls at my church. I also knew that as a Christian teenager, I wanted to set an example in my own life for those who were younger than me. People who were where I have already been, and who were striving to live out their faith to the best of their ability. I wanted to live out the words of this verse in my own life—and set an example for other people my age through speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.

It doesn’t take long to look around at our society and see that as a whole, people don’t really expect much from middle, high school, and college students. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people say “Oh but they’re a teenager! Of course they’re going to do XYZ!” Even at twenty, the stigma remains. It is simply assumed that people my age and younger are going to party, drink, and sleep around*. It is something that is simply thought of as something that is normal for people our age.

However, we have the chance right now at our current age to be the change that we want to see in our culture. We have the chance to rise up and be role models for the next generation, defying the expectations that come with youth. We have the chance to be a leader in our spheres of influence for Christ. To rise up and defy expectations—running passionately after our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Recently, I had the chance to talk to a younger girl at my church who is starting a Christian club at her high school. I know another girl who, at only fourteen has started making Christian vlogs and posting them to YouTube. These people are living examples that you are never too young to make a difference and lead people closer to Christ. You have the chance now—right where you are! 

I want to challenge you to go into your week with this takeaway: you have a chance to be a role model in your generation. You have the opportunity influence those around you in a positive way—it is up to you how you use it. Today, in this day, you have the chance to be a positive influence in the lives of the people around you. 

To lead people closer to Christ.

To encourage kindness in those around you.

To love people like Jesus.

To live a life characterized by faith and purity.

You have the chance to set an example. How will you use it? 

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“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV). 

*Note, if you have some things that you’ve done and regret in your past, I want to be the first to let you know that God doesn’t love you ANY less! He can still use you and use your testimony for His glory. I know a number of people who haven’t always been walking with Christ who are now fully on fire for Jesus—and making a difference for His Kingdom every day! You are never to far gone for our God!🙂

Faith Moves Mountains

Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.” – Mark 11:23 (NIV).

Faith. It’s a topic that we hear about often, but often struggle to live out in the real. It is the thing that calls us to trust when there seems to be no way. However, in spite of all of this, faith is the very essence of the Christian walk.

I once heard a quote that said, “If you’re prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God.“* Now, obviously God hears all prayers, ranging from the prayer of a seven year old girl in her bedroom to the prayer of an elderly man on his deathbed. However, there is something that I believe we, as believers, can take away from this quote. Too often, it is easy to keep our faith limited—boxed almost. Trusting God for some things, but hesitant to prayer about others. Somewhere deep down, we fear that we might just pray the prayer that is ‘too much’ for God to handle. 

However, as believers chasing after the very heart of God, I believe God is calling us to something more radical. 

Over the past year or so, God has been challenging me in my faith. As someone naturally prone to mini-panic-attacks about the future, God has been continuously leading me to live out the words of Philippians 4:6-7. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV). He has also been challenging me to lean more on Him (rather than myself. Proverbs 3:5-6 y’all!) and have more faith for seemingly impossible things. Faith that God could literally heal someone on the spot. Faith that some of the most far off places (e.g. college campuses) could have mass revivals and dedications to Jesus. Faith that the most lost people we know will come to a saving faith in Christ by our example and the example others.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (NIV). Furthermore, in Matthew 19:26 (NIV), it says, “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  (NIV). 

We serve a God who we cannot see, but whom we can trust. A God who has a track record of performing miracles—such as breathing the world into existence and rising from the dead on the third day. Who is in authority over all of the forces of nature, and has a power beyond what we can imagine, but who loves us infinitely—more than we can even imagine. As Christians, we serve a God who we believe in through faith—who calls us to an even greater faith as we grow and mature in our walk. 

This week, I want to challenge you to a greater faith. To a faith that truly believes God can move mountains—even the mountains in your life! I want to challenge you to have faith the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20) and believe fully in God’s presence and power in your life. I want to challenge you to a faith for the impossible.

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*Just looked this quote up. It’s by Mark Batterson. 

Overcoming Anxiety

Recently, I posted to my Instagram story, asking those who follow me for suggestions on future blog topics. And, knowing a little bit about my story and my struggle with OCD/anxiety, a friend asked that, if I was comfortable, I would share how I manage it.

And, I told her that I would be more than happy to share.😊

For those of you who don’t know me, or are new to my blog, I’ve struggled with OCD/anxiety on and off since around middle school. My struggle with OCD/anxiety is mostly a battle of the mind (to borrow a term from Joyce Meyers). It can look different for different people, but for me it mainly takes the form of thoughts. Thoughts that make me feel stressed, or that trigger my emotions in some way. When this happens, it often triggers a host of physical symptoms – symptoms like a racing heart, or the sensation of ‘tensing up’ under stress. The thoughts, mixed with the symptoms, brings us to what most people would dub “OCD” or “anxiety.

And while, dealing with this kind of anxiety can be hard, it isn’t impossible.

I believe that through Christ’s power living in us, we are more than conquerors through Christ who strengthens us (Romans 8:3). And as intense as anxiety can sometimes be, it is no match for the God who breathed earth into being and breath into our very lungs.

And, here are some tips that have helped me overcome my own anxiety.

1. Identify the source – “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10. Back when I was in middle school, one of my youth leaders made us memorize this verse. I can still remember being in a line of middle schoolers waiting to recite it back to her to get a piece of free candy. Years later, as an adult, I am super glad that I learned it. Because as Christians on fire for Jesus, our enemy is constantly looking for ways to defeat us, and keep us from the plans that God has for us.

One of the primary way that he will do this, is through using anxiety to defeat us—putting thoughts in our minds and making us think that they are ours. He will also lie to us in any way that He can—about ourselves and about the people that God has placed in our lives. When these kinds of self-defeating thoughts come, it is important that we identify the source. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.When our knowledge of God’s truth becomes more powerful than the lies that we hear about ourselves, we are in a place where we can begin demolishing these thoughts and the anxiety that comes with them.

2. Surround yourself with a community – “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25. I honestly cannot speak enough about the importance of community in the life of the believer. I fell into a season a while back where I struggled to find this, and it was honestly one of the worst times for me in regards to anxiety/OCD. When we surround ourselves with people who will speak truth into our lives and encourage us in our faith, it is so much harder for the enemy to lie to us and attack us with temptation and troubling thoughts. There’s a reason that God tells us to surround ourselves with other believers. It is not only good for our Christian walk—it is good for our mental and emotional wellbeing.

3. Pray – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6 I know this one probably sounds so cliche, but trust me, it works. This is not to say that if you pray, all of your problems will automatically be resolved – after all, Paul still had his thorn even after he asked God to take it away (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). However, this does not diminish the power of prayer. Praying changes something in our hearts, even at the times that we struggle. It causes us to position our hearts towards God and ‘cast all of our fears unto Him because He cares‘ (Psalm 55:22). God is with you even in your hardest moments. When we begin to praise God in the storm, anxiety slowly begins to lose its power over us. Suddenly, the things that we were once so worried about, and that we were so stressed out about seem small—by comparison of the amazing, awesome, and powerful God that we serve! A God who is greater than any form of fear or anxiety!

4. Be Real—not perfect -“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. Ironically, just last week, as I was planning this blog post, one of the other leaders at my church’s youth group was asked to speak on this very topic. And one thing he mentioned that stood out to me was letting go of the need to be strong and be perfect—opening up to God and others about our areas of weakness. As your classic ‘type A’ perfectionist, this can definitely be a struggle for me. It can be hard to say to a friend or someone close to you ‘I’m not OK.’ However, as God taught me over the course of last year, one of the healthiest things that we can do as human beings is confide in each other, and be real about our struggles. We are all human, and there is not a human on this planet who has their life completely figured out. 

5. Get in the word – “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12. Staying plugged into God’s Word is one of our surest keys to keeping our anxiety and negative emotions in check. It has the power to break through the deepest places in our heart and penetrate through our whole being. A couple of days ago, I woke up feeling stressed about the future, and trying to discern God’s plans for me, and as soon as I broke out my Bible and put on some good worship music, I felt better. As Christians, the Bible is our lifeblood, and it is so important that we stay in the Word to steady our spirits as we go throughout our day to day lives.

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How about you? Have you ever struggled with anxiety, or negative thoughts? If so, how did you combat it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.😃